Building Lasting Self-Esteem

I stumbled across a TED video the other day on Facebook which gave suggestions about a problem many of us have; low self-esteem. (TED.com is a website dedicated to helping people with the every day problems life throws at us. TED began in 1984 as a conference where Technology, Entertainment, and Design converged, and today covers almost all topics.)

This particular post got my attention, because I have a problem with low self-esteem. It’s improving as time goes on (now that I know how to manage it) but I think I will always lack confidence in certain areas of my life. It’s just who I am.

I definitely need to be reminded from time to time to take better care of myself physically, as well as emotionally. The author, Guy Winch (who is also a phsycologist), has some great suggestions:

“1. Use positive affirmations correctly
Positive affirmations such as “I am going to be a great success!” are extremely popular, but they have one critical problem — they tend to make people with low self-worth feel worse about themselves. Why? Because when our self-esteem is low, such declarations are simply too contrary to our existing beliefs. Ironically, positive affirmations do work for one subset of people — those whose self-esteem is already high. For affirmations to work when your self-esteem is lagging, tweak them to make them more believable. For example, change “I’m going to be a great success!” to “I’m going to persevere until I succeed!”

2. Identify your competencies and develop them
Self-esteem is built by demonstrating real ability and achievement in areas of our lives that matter to us. If you pride yourself on being a good cook, throw more dinner parties. If you’re a good runner, sign up for races and train for them. In short, figure out your core competencies and find opportunities and careers that accentuate them.

3. Learn to accept compliments
One of the trickiest aspects of improving self-esteem is that when we feel bad about ourselves we tend to be more resistant to compliments — even though that is when we most need them. So, set yourself the goal to tolerate compliments when you receive them, even if they make you uncomfortable (and they will). The best way to avoid the reflexive reactions of batting away compliments is to prepare simple set responses and train yourself to use them automatically whenever you get good feedback (e.g., “Thank you” or “How kind of you to say”). In time, the impulse to deny or rebuff compliments will fade — which will also be a nice indication your self-esteem is getting stronger.

4. Eliminate self-criticism and introduce self-compassion
Unfortunately, when our self-esteem is low, we are likely to damage it even further by being self-critical. Since our goal is to enhance our self-esteem, we need to substitute self-criticism (which is almost always entirely useless, even if it feels compelling) with self-compassion. Specifically, whenever your self-critical inner monologue kicks in, ask yourself what you would say to a dear friend if they were in your situation (we tend to be much more compassionate to friends than we are to ourselves) and direct those comments to yourself. Doing so will avoid damaging your self-esteem further with critical thoughts, and help build it up instead.

5. Affirm your real worth
The following exercise has been demonstrated to help revive your self-esteem after it sustained a blow: Make a list of qualities you have that are meaningful in the specific context. For example, if you got rejected by your date, list qualities that make you a good relationship prospect (for example, being loyal or emotionally available); if you failed to get a work promotion, list qualities that make you a valuable employee (you have a strong work ethic or are responsible). Then choose one of the items on your list and write a brief essay (one to two paragraphs) about why the quality is valuable and likely to be appreciated by other people in the future. Do the exercise every day for a week or whenever you need a self-esteem boost.”

I think the one that would help me most to remember is to focus on those things I do well (#5) and focus on that. It will be difficult, because I enjoy doing a lot of different things. The things that come to mind are writing, cooking, and crafting.  

Honestly, I should pay attention with # 4, too, because I’m not always the nicest person to myself. I judge, I criticize, and I’m not very patient when I make mistakes. The negative self-talk can be extremely damaging to one’s self-esteem. If you’re like me, we tell ourselves how stupid we are for making a mistakes, hoping it will help not make the same mistake again.

And though it might prevent us from making the same mistake, it also reinforces the fact we think we are stupid, and that’s something that’s just not true. We are all works in progress and we need to be kinder to ourselves.

I also loved the author’s reminder: “Whenever your self-critical inner monologue kicks in, ask yourself, ‘what you would say to a dear friend if they were in your situation’.”

Most of us would never treat our friends so harshly.

For more TED Lessons, visit the website or find them on Facebook.

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IRS Phone Scams on the Rise

I have received at least a phone call a week within the last month warning me that the Internal Revenue Service was filing a lawsuit against me. 

Of course, the first one shook me up, and I immediately googled it to see if it was legit.  What popped up were dozens of web pages warning consumers of potential scams that might be occurring, including scams about the IRS.

The most current warning was from the IRS itself, stating:

“The Internal Revenue Service today (Aug. 2) warned taxpayers to stay vigilant against an increase of IRS impersonation scams in the form of automated calls and new tactics from scammers demanding tax payments on iTunes and other gift cards.

The IRS has seen an increase in “robo-calls” where scammers leave urgent callback requests through the phone telling taxpayers to call back to settle their “tax bill.” These fake calls generally claim to be the last warning before legal action is taken. Once the victim calls back, the scammers may threaten to arrest, deport or revoke the driver’s license of the victim if they don’t agree to pay.

“It used to be that most of these bogus calls would come from a live-person. Scammers are evolving and using more and more automated calls in an effort to reach the largest number of victims possible,” said IRS Commissioner John Koskinen. “Taxpayers should remain alert for this summer surge of phone scams, and watch for clear warning signs as these scammers change tactics.”

In the latest trend, IRS impersonators are demanding payments on iTunes and other gift cards. The IRS reminds taxpayers that any request to settle a tax bill by putting money on  any form of gift card is a clear indication of a scam.

Some examples of the varied tactics seen this year are:

  • Demanding payment for a “Federal Student Tax.” See IR-2016-81.
  • Demanding immediate tax payment for taxes owed on an iTunes or other type of gift card
  • Soliciting W-2 information from payroll and human resources professionals. See IR-2016-34.
  • “Verifying” tax return information over the phone. See IR-2016-40.
  • Pretending to be from the tax preparation industry. See IR-2016-28

Since these bogus calls can take many forms and scammers are constantly changing their strategies, knowing the telltale signs is the best way to avoid becoming a victim.  

The IRS will never:

    • Call to demand immediate payment over the phone, nor will the agency call about taxes owed without first having mailed you a bill.
    • Threaten to immediately bring in local police or other law-enforcement groups to have you arrested for not paying.
    • Demand that you pay taxes without giving you the opportunity to question or appeal the amount they say you owe.
    • Require you to use a specific payment method for your taxes, such as a prepaid debit card, gift card or wire transfer.
    • Ask for credit or debit card numbers over the phone.

If you get a phone call from someone claiming to be from the IRS and asking for money and you don’t owe taxes, here’s what you should do:

  • Do not give out any information. Hang up immediately.
  • Contact TIGTA to report the call. Use their “IRS Impersonation Scam Reporting” web page or call 800-366-4484.
  • Report it to the Federal Trade Commission. Use the “FTC Complaint Assistant” on FTC.gov. Please add “IRS Telephone Scam” in the notes

It’s good to be aware of the scams, but most people can’t help but feel a little violated when they receive a call like this. You could block the calls, but the scammers just keep changing the callback numbers. 

The best way to handle phone scams is not to answer the phone if you don’t recognize the number. And if they leave a message demanding you call them back, research the information first. Chances are it’s just a scam.

tributecr.com

Crafters Are Happier People

If you think about it, crafting is just another form of creating, and creating gives us purpose.

Why is purpose important? Because it’s one of the keys to being happy, the state of being that all people strive to get to.

With that being said, how can crafters not be happier people?

I have observed, and experienced, this phenomena myself. A group of women, of all ages, who didn’t even know each other, got together recently to learn how to do a certain project. In just a few minutes, we were talking and laughing like old friends.

I have seen it in my own grandchildren, who are rambunctious and full of life, as most children are. But as soon as we sit down to do a craft, they are so focused on what they are doing, they don’t have time to complain or fight, and we all have a great time. Plus, they get to take their creation home for their parents to ooh and aah over, which helps build self-esteem.

I have heard teachers say crafting time is their favorite time. Not only does it calm the students down, but it gives them a chance away from the usual structure of the school day and lets them think freely. The students are more relaxed and they can let the creative juices flow much easier.

My youngest daughter has in a funk lately. The stress of life is taking a toll on her. Kids, work, a demanding husband, and the burden of running the house and paying bills is overwhelming. I’ve been there. I know what that feels like; you’re stuck and can’t really do anything about it. Or can you?

When you’re stuck, you have to get “un-stuck,” and one way to do that is do something you have never done.

So I asked her, “Do you have a hobby? Is there something new you’d like to try?”

She gave me a funny look, shook her head, and laughed. “Nothing. I don’t have time.”

“You have to make time,” I told her. “This is the part where you turn off your phone, tell your kids you need some alone time, and lock your bedroom door.  It’s important to take care of yourself, which includes doing something for you, something you enjoy doing.”

The more we talked, I discovered she saw a craft project she wanted to try involving string art.

“But I don’t know how.”

I grabbed my computer and googled string art. We looked up different varieties and got some ideas for a project of our own. We bought some nails, grabbed a hammer, a piece of finished wood, took out my embroidery string, and went to work.

We haven’t quite finished the project and I want to wait to unveil it, but something happened to Lori as we were working on the project. Her mood changed from one of depression to light-hearted. She was genuinely excited about what we were doing. And she smiled, a lot.

It was nice to see my happy-go-lucky little girl again.

I know achieving happiness is not as easy as that. It’s a complicated. We have happy moments, but most people can’t maintain that peaceful and content feeling very long. Life is stressful and we tend to get lost in the day-to-day struggles.

True happiness is a state of mind. Not only does it involve having a purpose; you have to decide that you aren’t going to let anyone or anything disturb your peace. You have to let go of those things you have no control over. And you have to be grateful for where you are at any given moment, something that requires more than a few hours of crafting.

But it’s a great start.

tributecr.com

 

 

Paper Mache Harder Than It Looks

According to Wikipedia, paper mache, or papier-mâché, (French for chewed paper), is a composite material consisting of paper pieces or pulp, sometimes reinforced with textiles, bound with an adhesive, such as glue, starch, or wallpaper paste.

Paper Mache

Paper Mache

I learned how to paper mache when I was little, around 5 years old, when my oldest sister showed us how to make puppets. She took a balloon, strips of newspaper, and a flour and water mixtures.

She saturated the strips and wrapped them around a balloon she had blown up. SHe let them dry and reapplied the paper mache until the blob was thick enough to stand alone when she deflated the balloon.IMG_9190

She then went to work cutting out fabric and sewing the two sides together, while us kids painted the faces on the paper mache. She added yarn for hair and viola! We had puppets!

I don’t remember if we ever had a puppet show, but as a 5-year-old, I thought the idea was pretty awesome.

I brought the idea up to my 10-year-old granddaughter, Isabelle, who agreed to help me. First, we asked the rest of the grandkids what character they would like to be. The answers ranged from a ninja, to a princess, to a baby elephant (a challenge in itself).

Then we made a list of things we’d need. We bought bits of fabric and googly eyes from Create Exchange and went to work on the paper mache. We found step-by-step instructions  to make paper mache online. sewing2

The process was slow and the paper strips might have been too long and wide, and maybe the balloons were too big (lesson learned), but we got the first layer on. We let it dry for a few days and applied another layer.

While the heads dried, we found a pattern online for the bodies and cut out the fabric. I showed Isabelle how to pin the two pieces together so they would be easier to sew. (She ended up putting a lot of pins in, so it took her longer to prepare the fabric than actually sew it.) She finished one set and decided that was enough for her.

The day came when it was finally time to decorate the puppets. I glued the heads to the fabric bodies with a glue gun, and used Elmer’s glue for the yarn/hair, smearing it around the head exactly where we wanted it.

After the hair dried a little, I let the kids put on the eyes and the mouths and whatever else they wanted, using Elmer’s glue. The elephant took a little more time, with the pink felt floppy ears Natalie wanted. Lennox’s ninja required a headband and mask, and Gianna’s princess needed a tiara.

After we were finished, we had to think of a story we could tell with our puppets; short and sweet,  and easy to remember. All the puppets had a part, even the baby elephant, who carried the ninja to the tower where the princess was held captive by the evil “other-mother” (according to Natalie).puppets

Everyone had a lot of fun, and though it was a lot of work, the memories we made will last a lifetime.

tributecr.com

 

A Bit of History

Greene Square Park in Cedar Rapids has seen a lot of changes. Once the highlight of the downtown area, it had become a simple walk-thru for years before the city attempted to renovate it, and did their best to breathe life back into it.

And though it took some time for the City to get it the way they wanted, I think they finally managed to give the community what it needs.  Since the city unveiled the new community space in May, scores of people have ventured down to enjoy the colorful fountains, the creative artwork, and relaxing atmosphere.

Green Square Park: "Humans of Cedar Rapids" project. Photo by Cynthia Petersen

Green Square Park: “Humans of Cedar Rapids” project. Photo by Cynthia Petersen

The popularity of Pokemon Go and the cool splash pad have only added to the popularity. On any given night, groups of kids and adults alike can be found wandering the Square or relaxing on one of the many chairs and benches that line the walkways. (Strings of lights light up the center of the Square, and the free wifi are definitely a plus.)

It has taken a few years, but Greene Square has once again become the hub of the downtown community. With the public library on one side of the park and the Mueum of Art on the other, the heart of Cedar Rapids is becoming a meeting place for friends and colleagues, a place for kids to play, and a spot to just relax a few minutes before heading back to work.

Cedar Rapids’ oldest park, now referred to simply as Greene Square (named for Judge George Greene), was once home to a train depot, Union Station, built in 1897. (The depot was torn down in 1961.)

In those days, visitors got their first glimpse of Cedar Rapids as they stepped off the train, with the old Washington High School (now the site of the CR Public Library), the Carnegie Building (home to the CR Museum of Art, which used to be the library).

old washington high school

Old Washington High School Across from Greene Square. Photo Courtsey of Cedar Rapids History Center

According to an article on saveheritage.org, “a fountain with electric lights was one of the park’s early amenities, but it was removed by the 1920s and replaced by a pavilion.”

My mother moved to Cedar Rapids in 1936 when she was 5. The family moved into my great-grandparents on 8th Ave and 8th St. SE, while my grandfather looked for work. On Bank Night, while the grown-ups went to the Strand Theater (eventually the World Theater) to listen for the numbers to be called (she said Bank Night was like the lottery), the kids played in Green Square Park.

green square park before 2014

Greene Square Park, before the recent renovation. Photo Courtesy of the Cedar Rapids History Center.

A old cannon once stood in the square, which of course, was an attraction for kids. She said she remembers getting hurt once or twice on that old cannon, which remained in the park for several decades.

I like the new Greene Square. And as I sat at one of the tables and watched my grandchildren play, I realized how much I had missed it.

For years it had just been a large space in the middle of town, but with the addition of sculptures and other artwork, a colorful fountain, and beautiful landscaping, it can be enjoyed by everyone.

 

 

Sensitivity is a Gift

I came across a Facebook post that contained a link to a study that was done in 2011 that links social anxiety to empathetic individuals.

And because I am always intrigued with articles that try to explain my unique character, I read on:

“Being an Empath means you literally feel what other people are experiencing emotionally. You can feel it in your body, your mood, sensations and in your thoughts. You can also feel it consciously and on a subtle level without realizing it.”

I know this for a fact I can literally feel the tension and negative vibes when I talk to people who are upset or excited or anxious, even on the phone, and I can’t wait to get away from them. I want to stay and listen, and if they need me to listen or talk, I will, for a while anyway. But the entire time, I am looking for an out, trying to wrap things up, or ask them to call me later when they calm down. (I leave out that part so I don’t offend them.)

Which brings up the whole co-dependent thing. Consciously I know I am not responsible for people’s feelings, but I don’t want to hurt their feelings if I can help it. Sometimes I can’t and I just have to accept it. But I know I am more considerate than many, and I take that into consideration. (It’s exhausting just listening to myself as I write this.)

It’s not just people; social activities, even the ones I want to be at, or so draining I have to leave after a short amount of time.  I can tolerate social gatherings, but I’m not comfortable. I would much rather be home, in my room, on my computer. I’m a journalist, and kind of expected to experience the world I am writing about.

It was easier when I was drinking because a few drinks would take the edge off and I could relax. But since I quit almost 11 years ago, I don’t have that “crutch,” and it’s difficult to relax at social gatherings, even with my own family.

Most people understand, but some are offended when I leave a party early. It’s just to hard for some people to understand.

Imagine a wild deer in a locked pen. It realizes it’s trapped and frantically looks for a way out. It paces back and forth until finally the gate opens and the deer bolts out. That’s kind of how I feel in many social situations. A little extreme, I know, but I have learned to manage it. I no longer run for the nearest exit. I edge my way towards it …

I have always been extremely sensitive and because I  care so much about what other people think, I viewed my sensitivity as a curse. It wasn’t that long ago that I heard, “Don’t let people walk all over you,” “You need a thicker skin,” or “Get a backbone.”

I thought there was something really wrong with me. When I was angry, I’d cry, because I was more hurt than angry. I couldn’t understand how people could be so hurtful and hateful. I became confused about love, because how could people say they love you, and then hurt you?

But once I understood how my sensitivity is a gift, not a curse, I accepted it, and now I’m glad I’m ultra-sensitive.

I feel things deeply and I connect with others on a new level, which is important to me. I actually look for that connection, that common bond, which helps me relate to that person on a deeper level. By empathizing with them, they will know they are not alone with whatever they are dealing with.

Some people say, “You’re too sensitive,” like it’s a bad thing. But maybe the people who see it as a bad thing are actually jealous because they don’t have the same ability.

And for the record; being sensitive is not the same as being emotional.  According to psychologist, Nancy Schreinre, “being sensitive implies empathy towards others outside of yourself. Being emotional doesn’t necessarily imply empathy and is more about the person being emotional than about the person needing empathy.”

Crying at sappy movies is one thing, but I cry at the horrible things going on throughout the entire world. I cry because I feel bad that others don’t have a place to live, or not enough to eat, or are abused, neglected, or bullied.

I cry for all human kind. That’s who I am. And though I am learning to stand up for myself and getting good at creating boundaries, I will always feel empathy, and I will always be socially anxious.

Psychologist, Nathaniel Branden said, “The first step in changing anything is being aware it needs changing.”

I agree with the statement, but there are some things you can’t change no matter how hard you try. Besides, in this case, would I even want to? I would much rather be sensitive and have to manage the anxiety that comes along with it, than be inconsiderate and uncaring toward others.

tributecr.com

Music Fans Remember Woodstock

I was only 6 when the Woodstock Music & Art Fair, known as Woodstock, was

Nick and Bobbi Ercoline

Nick and Bobbi Ercoline

held in August 1969 on a dairy farm in New York. And though I have heard a lot about the festival over the years, I never fully understood the impact the festival had on the music industry, or society, in general. 

But looking back at the music that came from out of the festival, it’s easy to see that most of the music we listen to today, somehow stem from those four days in August, 1969.

The music festival, which was estimated at attracting 25,000, was attended by over 400,000 people. It was originally scheduled Aug. 15 to 17, but it ran over an extra day.

During the sometimes-rainy weekend, 32 acts performed outdoors before an audience that celebrated “peace, love, and rock-and-roll.”

The following year, Rolling Stone magazine listed it as one of the “50 Moments That Changed the History of Rock and Roll.”

The event was captured in the Academy Award winning 1970 documentary movie “Woodstock,” an accompanying soundtrack album, and Joni Mitchell’s song Woodstock, which commemorated the event and became a major hit for both Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young and Matthews Southern Comfort.

Creedence Clearwater Revival became the first act to sign a contract for the event, agreeing to play for $10,000. In contrast, up and coming group, Santana, signed on for $750.

Additional musical artists who later signed included Crosby, Stills, and Nash, Joan Baez, The Who, Country Joe and the Fish, Joe Crocker, Arlo Guthrie, Jefferson Airplane, John Sebastian, Janis Joplin, the Grateful Dead, Jimi Hendrix, and several others.

Nick and Bobbi Ercoline, whose blanket-clad images graced the cover of the Woodstock album, are still together today, according to a June 2016 article on nationalpost.com.

The couple, now grandparents, still live in Pine Bush, New York, where they raised two sons within a 40-minute drive of the iconic concert.

According to an article on dailymail.co.uk, the couple said they never intended to go to the original concert. “But as they sat listening to the radio that weekend, the crowd swelled, police closed the roads and broadcast appeals for people to stay away. This made them determined to join in the fun.”

The article went on to explain that the couple were spotted by a wandering photographer. The shot made it on to the cover of the Woodstock triple album featuring, among others, Jimi Hendrix and The Who.


Nick recalls that he and Bobbi were listening to it at a friend’s house when he picked up the sleeve. ‘I said, “Hey that’s our blanket.” Then I said, “Hey, that’s us!”

Though some fans still gather every year to commemorate the history-making festival, there has been discussion about a Woodstock revival in 2019 to celebrate the music festival’s 50th Anniversary, but details have yet to be disclosed.

See more Woodstock photos at tributecr.com